Unreal Movie Review: A Christmas Carol


I went into A Christmas Carol, thinking I would know what I’d find. A story we’ve all heard and seen a thousand times, animated and hammered into something fit for 3D viewing. What I did not expect was that it’s not only one of the worst Christmas movies I’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the worst animated movies. I can’t tell which is a larger category.

I cannot stand this new style of animation that Zemeckis has crafted for 3D viewing. This motion-capture, humanoid nonsense is, for lack of a better term, creepy, but can go all the way to downright terrifying in certain scenes. Why you would want to take a movie that only has human characters, put all the actors in motion-capture suits and shoot the entire thing using slightly deformed versions of the actual cast?

I understand the use of this kind of tech for a movie like Avatar, where giant blue aliens need to be humanized through the use of this tech, but here, in this context, there is no reason for it, other than creating a style of animation that is simply too disturbing to exist. If you’ve ever seen pictures like this one, depicting animated characters rendered in “real life” form, then you get a sense as to what Zemickis animation looks like. Movies like this are why the term “Uncanny Valley” was invented in the first place, and it’s a prime example of using advanced technology to actually make a film worse.


Ah to be young again, and slightly less creepy looking.

But it’s not just the fault of the animation as to why A Christmas Carol is supremely awful. Zemeckis has decided to go with an extremely literal, practically humorless retelling of the Charles Dickens tale. This might be fine in other circumstances, but filming a PG kids movie where the characters say things like “ye” and “balderdash” and a million other old English colloquialisms leaves the audience alienated.

But what will turn families off even more to the film is that it simply is downright terrifying. There are ghosts and ghouls and zombies and demons every other frame in the film, not counting all the regular humans who look absolutely unnerving due to the creepy animation style to begin with. If I had young children with me in the film, I probably would have marched them straight out, right about the time a psychotic bug-eyed youth creeps out from under a dying spirits cloak to stab at Scrooge with a knife. The entire time I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to Silent Hill, rather than any of the previous incantations of A Christmas Carol I’d seen before.


The ghost of Christmas Present is…Fat Jesus meets the Burger King?

But the kids that were in the theater who weren’t crying were saying things like, “why did that happen?” “why is he tiny?” “who are those people?” “why are they chasing him?” All valid questions, the likes of which I have no idea how to answer. The time Scrooge spends with his three very strange spirits is interspersed with random chase sequences, which have absolutely no reason for occurring, other than to provide what must have been meant to be “comic relief.” But shrinking Scrooge down so he talks like a chipmunk while riding an icicle is not funny, and apparently even little kids know that.

I have other issues with the story itself, but I suppose it’s not wise to question Dickens. But seriously, what does Tiny Tim living or dying have to do with whether or not Scrooge is greedy? With his dad’s increase in pay, can he afford surgery now? This is the 1800s for godssake, the best they can do is probably saw his leg off and throw a bunch of leeches in there. And what does Scrooge’s change of heart have to do with him not dying? Is this some giant message about how optimists live longer?

There are no moving moments in the film, which is a stark change from previous versions. When Scrooge is reformed, what is supposed to be the emotional high point of the movie is rendered creepy and bizarre by the animation, and rather than being kindhearted, the man just acts like a complete loon. Even the Tiny Tim bits feel forced, and the final revelation of Scrooge’s name upon the tombstone is just eye rolling.

If I have to say one positive thing about the film before I go, it’s that the 3D effects are actually pretty worthwhile, if you overlook the awful animation. But that and the fact that it’s a classic tale do NOT make the film worth seeing, and you should show your kids the Muppets version instead.

Bah humbug indeed.

1 out of 5 stars


One thing I could have died without seeing is Ebenezer Scrooge’s “O-face.”

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  1. I think the best telling of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” IS the Muppet’s version. Great acting by Michael Caine, awesome songs that really get you in the holiday mood, and to top it all off: MUPPETS.

    How could any other version compare?

  2. We saw it last Friday and I guess my girlfriend and I are the only ones who liked this movie…then again, I liked “Polar Express” and it was knocked for some of the exact reasons this movie has been knocked. After the first couple minutes, I didn’t find the animation creepy at all; I guess I’m just not as bothered by the “uncanny valley” as some people are. I thought the acting in the film was very well done, the 3D was amazing and really added to the experience, and it had a good soundtrack.

    I do agree though that is was a bit too frightening for kids. I enjoyed it all the more because of the frightening bits, but it definitely isn’t something you want to take your young kids to. The clock-tower scene even creeped me out! And he was laughing the whole time… *shudder*

    Although it saddens me that many people dislike this movie, each to his own I suppose. On a side note, I’ve never particularly liked the Muppet’s version of “A Christmas Carol” (I grew up with the 1970 version with Albert Finney), so that may completely ruin my credibility… :-/

  3. when i first saw the trailer for this, i thought it was terrifying. my brother said he was going to take his 5-year old son and i told him that this movie would scar him for life and he would be paying for therapy later on. it’s creepy even to watch the trailer… i will definitely pass on this one. how many times can they remake this movie…

    and i must say the best version of “A Christmas Carol” is without a doubt, hands down “Scrooged”.

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